Thursday, December 12, 2013

Kiss of the Highlander





Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning (read by Phil Gigante)

I purchased the audiobook on CD from Barnes & Noble.

My review:


Continuing her tales of Scottish druid lairds, KMM this time brings readers the story of Drustan MacKeltar, a laird enchanted into a 500-year sleep. When Drustan is accidentally awakened in modern-day Scotland by a startled girl from Arizona, neither of them can believe it.

While formulaic, the Highlander Saga books are thoroughly entertaining and continue to improve. The humor and self-awareness of these romances keep them entertaining, and unexpected solutions add interest to otherwise predictable story lines. Phil Gigante continues to do a brilliant job with narration and with the male characters, and to struggle with voicing the female ones. Still, a delightful audio vacation to a fantasy world of good coffee, impressive castles, and hunks in kilts.

Stars: 4

Runability: 4.5

Mad About the Boy





Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

I borrowed a hardcover copy from my local public library.

My review:


Bridget's back! I am not going to try to avoid the "spoiler" that had everyone so upset, because it is not a spoiler. Mark is dead. They got married and had a couple of kids and now he's dead. Anything else would be a spoiler, but those basic facts are not.

Bridget is now in her early 50's and is juggling (single) motherhood slightly behind the schedule of most of her friends. She's also back in the dating game and finding it as difficult as it was for her twenty years previously. She attacks her new challenges with her typical blend of courage, anxiety, self-doubt, and determination to improve. Her voice is unchanged from the first two books, and readers who loved her the first two times around will only love her more now.

Though the book is screamingly funny, it also has a depth that the previous books did not quite touch. While younger Bridget worried about her parents, her career, and whether or not her life was going to turn out okay, a Bridget who has had and lost the love of her life has a very different foundation underlying the same old worries and schemes. Some of the passages about her missing Mark and wishing that he could be there to see his children grow up literally left me in tears.

A book that can leave a reader breathless with both laughter and sobs gets five stars on my blog.


Stars: 5

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Grave Peril





Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

I borrowed the ebook from the Free Library of Philadelphia's OverDrive collection.

My review:


Number 3 in The Dresden Files, Grave Peril continues the trials and tribulations of Harry Dresden, wizard. This installment brings back characters from the previous two books, including trouble-making vampires and talkative skulls. It also introduces us to a new character, Michael, who is a devout Knight of the Cross and makes an interesting counterpoint to the agnostic Harry.

The action and thrills continue to deliver, and there's plenty of Harry's dry humor to keep the reader chuckling and the pages turning. It would be easier to begin the series at the beginning than to jump in here, but fans of the first two books should be thoroughly satisfied with this continuation.

Stars: 5

Three Bedrooms, One Corpse






Three Bedrooms, One Corpse by Charlaine Harris

I downloaded the ebook from the Free Library of Philadelphia's OverDrive collection.


My review:


The third volume in the series, Three Bedrooms is another tale told by former librarian and constant murder enthusiast Aurora Teagarden. In this book, she stumbles upon a (naked) corpse in a house she is unofficially showing on behalf of her realtor mother. It becomes apparent quickly that someone in the town's real-estate business has rather a lot to hide and also a lot at stake.

Roe's personal relationships and personal life are thinly-sketched and generally uninteresting, but the whodunnit has enough spice to make up for that. A cozy murder mystery that will appeal to fans of Charlaine Harris's writing.

Stars: 3.5

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Intentions of the Earl





Intentions of the Earl by Rose Gordon

I received a free copy of the ebook from Barnes & Noble in a Free Fridays promotion.

My review:


Hard-up nobleman sets his sights on wooing a girl in order to cure his financial woes. The twist in this story is that the earl isn't after the lady's dowry; he needs a payoff from a friend who has an unexplained interest in seeing the family's reputation shredded.

An easy, entertaining read, Intentions will pass for neither great romance nor accurate historical portrayal, but those in an undemanding mood will enjoy this light regency romp. Circumstances and explanations are often contrived, but forgiving readers won't mind.

Stars: 3


Despite the cover art, the sex is milder than most "scandalous" romances. It's hardly a bodice-ripper, though there are some scenes with some spice.

Surrender to Sultry


Surrender to Sultry by Macy Beckett

I purchased the ebook from Barnes & Noble.

My review:


Another sweet, sexy romance in Sultry Springs, Texas. Long-lost Leah shows up back home to care for her pastor dad as he recuperates from a health scare. She brings back some secrets that she's afraid to share with her high school boyfriend and the town's current sherriff, Colt.

There were allusions to the Colt/Leah romance in the previous Sultry books, but a reader could jump into the series at this installment with no problems. While it's a light, undemanding read, there are enduring themes of trust, truth, and what it really means to be a family. Love in Sultry is never just about the chemistry; Beckett always gives her romances a firmer foundation.

Stars: 4


Macy Beckett's romances are a treat. They're sweet, funny, clever, sexy, and as comforting as a big slice of apple pie at the kitchen table.

A Dance With Dragons

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

I downloaded the ebook through my public library's OverDrive service, borrowed the hardcover from my local public library, and finally finished up with an ebook copy from the Free Library of Philadelphia.

My review:


Yes, this book took me THAT long to read. There isn't much to say about this book other than Tyrion is back, which is wonderful, but most of the other characters I like barely put in appearances and there are new characters that were hard to place and follow.

I am starting to have more interest in Dany, though.

Stars: 3.5

Saturday, November 9, 2013

World War Z

World War Z by Max Brooks

I borrowed the audiobook on CD from the public library.

My review:


This "oral history of the zombie war" chronicles humanity's global struggle for survival in a zombie apocalypse. The individuals' stories are presented in chronological order, building upon one another though the characters have never met.

Max Brooks apparently has a wide array of interests, as evidenced by the many, varied, and completely believable characters he has created to tell this tale. From old-school rural doctors to hot-shot pilots, annoying basement-dwellers, and mystic Russian priests, readers get a cross-section of humanity and lots of convincing detail.

The audio production is read by a full cast, which does an excellent job. Though there is no single hero to follow through the war as the book unfolds, each individual vignette will grip through the last word. There are heroes to cheer for, clueless bumblers doomed to failure, and despicable mercenaries out to save their own skins and make a buck at any cost. This book and the audiobook production should appeal to a wide range of readers and could be a great recommendation for younger men who struggle to find compelling reading material.

Stars: 5

Runability: 4

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I got an audiobook copy courtesy of YA Sync.

My review:



A family of psychics in a small town in Virginia ends up becoming inconveniently tangled with some boys from the local prep school. Blue, the daughter who hasn't inherited the family gift, sees the ghost of one of the boys on the "corpse road," which can mean one of only two things: he's her true love, or she kills him. Either way, he's doomed to die within the year. Despite her efforts, Blue can't stay away from the boys, and they get involved in a centuries-old mystery surrounding lines of magical power and personal ambitions and greed.

Maggie Stiefvater writes a compelling story filled with complex, finely-turned relationships. Persephone, Moira, Neeve, and Orla are the coolest bunch of aunts you could ever hope to meet, and Gansey and Adam are the boys that every high school girl has a crush on. The mystery keeps things interesting.

Stars: 4

Runability: 4


Aside from a few details that are implausible or incorrect (what backyard mechanic can't drive a stick shift, I mean really), this is an exciting YA fantasy. Stiefvater does YA very well; relationships and characters are realistic and complex. While her teens are real teens, they have enough depth and maturity to them to reward even adult readers who typically avoid YA.

My main complaint is that the book is plainly the beginning of a series, which feels like an unnecessary drawing-out of the story. I plan to listen to the sequel, as well; I hope the same narrator does the reading, as he was excellent and his whiskey-rough voice made for thoroughly enjoyable listening.

Graveminder





Graveminder by Melissa Marr

I purchased the ebook when it was on sale at Barnes & Noble.

My review:


I read this creepy little tome leading up to Halloween, and it was perfect for that. An idyllic small town has some odd customs when it comes to their dead; everything from how the body is handled to how the graves are tended is a bit unusual, and nobody seems to be able to explain why. When the current "graveminder" dies in a gory and mysterious fashion, her step-granddaughter returns to town for the funeral. She soon realizes that she and her ex are both in for way more than they bargained for.

The premise of this book was fascinating, and for almost the entire way through it kept me turning pages and picturing the world it portrayed. The relationship between the main characters unfolded in a clunky and unsatisfying way, however, and unfortunately came to overshadow the stronger elements of the story. I am intrigued by the complexities of the underworld, however, and I might be persuaded to pick up the sequel.

Stars: 3


I want to be Amelia. Sexy, mysterious gunslinger-girl? Sign me up. She is pretty much the main reason that I'd be interested in reading follow-up books.

Heartbroken

Heartbroken by Lisa Unger

I borrowed the ebook through my local public library's 3M service.

My review:


Heartbroken is what I think of as thriller-lite; it's a thriller without some of the gore and violence that can accompany that genre heading. It follows the eventually-intertwining paths of a working-class girl trying to rehabilitate her loser boyfriend and the more rarefied existence of an upper-middle-class soccer mom who has issues with her well-off but demanding mother.

This one kept the pages turning, and everyone in my book club enjoyed it very much.

Stars: 5

Monday, September 30, 2013

Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I borrowed the audiobook on CD from my local public library.

My review:


A beautiful, dying actress in a nowhere Italian village in 1962, a frustrated film student-turned-production-assistant in modern-day LA, and an intriguing supporting cast that includes Richard Burton are the subjects of Beautiful Ruins. The story winds its way through decades and time zones, finally linking everyone's story back together into a beautiful, tragic, hopeful whole.

Beautiful Ruins won an Audie Award as runner-up to the 2013 Audiobook of the Year. It is well-deserved. The reader, Edoardo Ballerini, nails every character and his or her background and accent.

Stars: 4

Runability: 5


Friday, September 27, 2013

Happy Women Live Better

Happy Women Live Better by Valorie Burton

I received a free review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

My review:


Happy Women Live Better aims to reveal thirteen "happiness triggers" to help women to lead happier, more fulfilled lives. These triggers are things like "exercise," "flow," "gratitude," and "service." Burton talks about the role of these triggers in her own life and strives to encourage other women to incorporate them into their own routines, as well.

Burton begins the book by looking at studies that indicate that women's happiness levels have significantly decreased since the 1970s, and she argues that this is due to the pressure women now feel to "have it all." Before they expected to work full-time in demanding careers outside the homes, she claims, they were able to focus on the nurturing of their homes and families, which they found more fulfilling, less stressful, and more conducive to a happy life.

Unfortunately, this argument becomes a main message of the book, even in sections that have little to do with career. Burton adds a caveat occasionally that some women may be happiest when working outside the home and that some women may need to, but the sense of the book is that most married women should take a lesser role in providing the family income. This attitude obviously stems in part from her particular Christian worldview, though she does not draw an explicit connection between the two. While she hopes to help women take some of the pressure off of themselves to "do it all," she may unwittingly add a layer of guilt by pressuring them to spend more time at home when they are unable to do so.

The "happiness triggers" will lead to more contentment and happiness in the average person's life, but they will be little new to a frequent reader of women's magazines (gratitude journals, volunteering, etc.). The examples of specific everyday application are also few and far between. For a more practical and scientifically-backed look at ways to increase everyday happiness, pick up David Niven's The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People.

Stars: 3

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Inner Harbor

Inner Harbor by Nora Roberts

I downloaded the audio book from the public library's OverDrive service.

My review:


Inner Harbor is the third book in Roberts' Quinn Brothers of Chesapeake Bay Saga (read my reviews of the first, Sea Swept, and the second, Rising Tides). It follows the third Quinn brother, Philip, the advertising professional who lives in Baltimore and really, really likes fancy suits and expensive wine. He was my least favorite of the four Quinn brothers, and I was hesitant to follow him for an entire book.

Phil proved to be more interesting than I expected. Though his present bored me, his past was a good story, and it got to play a larger role than Phil's character in the previous books had led me to expect. The love interest was delightfully involved in the ongoing mystery of Seth's origins, and we finally get some answers about the boy's parentage.

Unfortunately, the love interest tended toward stock character and I found her frigid, boring, and unrealistic. At this point in the larger story arc, however, it was possible to overlook her failings as a character and enjoy this continuation of the series.

Stars: 3.5

Runability: 3.5


I enjoyed this book more than I anticipated. The audio reading of it was also better than I was expecting, given that this recording is being re-done with a different voice actor. I was able to get ahold of the older version, and I'm not sure why they feel the need to do a new version; this one was quite good and was not a jarring change from the reader who did the first two books in the series.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Savannah Breeze

Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews

I borrowed the audiobook on CD through my workplace's interlibrary loan service.

My review:


BeBe Loudermilk is a successful businesswoman, loving granddaughter, loyal BFF, and a few-times-divorcee in Savannah. After making the mistake of once again trusting the wrong man, BeBe is determined to get back on her feet and get her revenge, no matter how many horrifying motel bathrooms she has to scrub.

The sequel to Savannah Blues, this book features many of the same characters and a few new ones. Granddad, especially, stole my heart and made me laugh out loud. The reader struggled early on to bring convincing life to each character, but she hit her stride after a couple of chapters and most of the book was great listening.

Stars: 5

Runability: 4


Just delightful. I'm behind on my blogging, so that's all I'll say. But I had so much fun with this one and am so glad that I went to the trouble of getting it on audio. 




Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Wedding Dress

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck

I purchased the ebook from Barnes & Noble.

My review:


Rachel Hauck weaves together a cohesive story across two different eras. Charlotte is a modern-day bridal boutique owner who stumbles across a mysterious vintage gown; Emily is engaged and feeling family pressure to have the "right" wedding and life in 1912. As Charlotte begins trying to learn the history of the gorgeous dress in her possession, she finds more than a few mysteries attached to the gown and its past owners.

Telling a story on multiple stages, let alone in multiple time periods, is a challenge, but Hauck does it deftly. Emily's tale does not get short shift, even though the primary story line throughout is Charlotte's modern-day dilemmas. Even though both women struggle with discerning the right decisions, their story lines are unique, though related.

The faith aspect is lightly sprinkled throughout the book without being a main element. Christian readers will delight in the overt and subtle references to Scripture, while non-Christian readers will likely still find the book palatable.

Stars: 4

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

When Mountains Move

When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell

I received an advance review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

My review:


This is a sequel to Into the Free, which I have not read. It's Mississippi, 1943, and Millie is marrying veterinarian Bump Anderson and moving West to help him start a ranching operation for their boss, Cauy Tucker. She is haunted by memories of a horrible experience a month before her wedding, and that secret taints the early months of her marriage. Her relationship with Bump is also rocked by many and varied external challenges.

A knowledge of the backstory is not necessary to follow the events, but it would certainly be helpful. While the main thread of the novel is Millie's struggling young marriage, there are multiple secondary story lines that contribute to the stress placed on their relationship. It is an ambitious amount of complexity for such a brief book, but Cantrell carries it off pretty well. Some characters do make unconvincingly convenient appearances and exits, however, which are all the more noticeable in the supposedly isolated ranch setting.

Some outcomes were just not plausible. Millie accepts (and apparently the reader is supposed to also accept) several flimsy explanations and even refusals to explain suspicious actions. There is a great deal of emphasis placed on "trust," but there is precious little earning of that trust.

Conservative Christian readers may be uncomfortable with the integration of Native American spiritual beliefs. As for Christianity, the faith element is integrated frequently but vaguely, making this truly more "inspirational fiction" than "Christian fiction."

Recommended for readers of faith-based fiction who enjoy novels centered in marital themes.

Stars: 3

Objective stars:3.5


I just don't like books about marital discord. My husband has noticed that I get testy with him when I'm mad at the husband or boyfriend in the book I'm reading. Obviously this means that books about struggling marriages are not a favorite in my household.

I was also disappointed by the way Millie handled many things relating to her marital problems. Because she was such a young bride and came from such a difficult background, it was more realistic, but I spent most of the book wanting to step in and tell her to grow a spine and whip her life into shape.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Serena

Serena by Ron Rash

I borrowed the hardcover from my local public library.

My review:


It's the Smokies in the Depression and life is tough. So are Henry and Serena Pemberton, who are determined to make a killing in the timber business-- even if they have to do some actual killing to get it done.



Serena is not a feel-good book, but it is beautifully written and has a cast of compelling, nuanced characters. It's obvious that Rash has deep ties to the region. Though much of the subject matter is bleak and there are very few sympathetic characters, this is a novel that will reward the read for those who don't shy away from the phrase "stone-cold killer."

 

Stars: 4


This was my first book by Ron Rash and I will be reading his work again. Serena was a chilling but fascinating character, and hardscrabble mountain life was the perfect backdrop for this ruthless tale. I also liked how Rash included a few significant events that were not drawn in detail; the reader is allowed the latitude to supply the missing information with his or her preferred conjecture to make the story even more grim or, alternatively, to instill a little joy.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Week in Winter

A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

I downloaded the audiobook from the public library's OverDrive service.

My review:


A Week in Winter is almost a collection of cozy, intertwined short stories as much as it is a novel. A motley collection of folks find their lives intersecting in an old house in western Ireland and transforming it into a welcoming, old-fashioned inn. In the first week of business, an even more eclectic group of guests gather around the farmhouse table. The book tells the story of each one.

This book is an encouraging, comforting perspective on some of the most difficult things that life has to offer-- heartbreak, betrayal, death, and dreams that never came to be. Each character encounters serious problems and setbacks, but the tone of the book is unfailingly hopeful and healing. It would be a perfect read for a fall or winter evening by the fire, but it will lend itself well to any time of year and could provide a soothing escape to someone going through a difficult season in life.

Stars: 4
Runability: 1

I just couldn't run to this one. The book was delightful, the audioproduction was excellent, but it was just too cozy to run to. I tried, but I never made it far before I switched to an upbeat musical playlist instead. It was a perfect commuting book, and I want to go live at Stone House. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Running Update

My running update today is more aspirational than inspirational; my last true run was six days ago and was only 3.5 miles. It was a good run, though!

It's the beginning of a new academic year, which is always busy, and there have been some unexpected urgent chores and family/friend demands, which have put a damper on my exercise in the past couple of weeks.

I'm going to get back into the swing of things as soon as possible... though right now "as soon as possible" is looking like it might be Sunday!

To motivate me, I have this shiny beauty, a birthday gift from my supportive husband:

A Garmin Forerunner 110!

I tried to take it out for a spin on Monday evening, but I hadn't realized that it doesn't go into powersave mode all by itself. At least I'm assuming that's why it had a low battery a couple of days after being completely charged. I made it a quarter of a mile when its battery and mine died at the same time and I decided to go home and freeze tomatoes.

Monday, August 19, 2013

How to Look Expensive

How to Look Expensive by Andrea Pomerantz Lustig

I borrowed the hardcover from the public library.

My review:


Andrea Lustig is the beauty editor at Glamour magazine and has years and years of experience and lots and lots of contacts in the biz. In How to Look Expensive, she distills all of that knowledge into one slim volume that's packed with effective, straightforward, and money-saving beauty advice.

Readers who are passionately devoted to beauty blogs and women's magazines may not find a great deal new here, but for those whose interest is more casual, this book is an efficient guide to upgrading your look. The best aspect of this book is that it names specific products and colors from particular brands. For every high-priced item, Andrea also recommends a comparable alternative at a lower price point. She also explains what makes each choice a good one, so if her recommendations don't suit you for some reason, you can easily look for something similar that is available in your area or preferred brand.

Early in the book, she outlines four "luxe personas": Park Avenue Pretty, Hollywood Boho, Glam Globe-Trotter, and Modern Movie Star. Each persona is illustrated with contemporary celebrities (and photographs of them!). From that point forward, every section, be it hair cut, makeup style, or fragrance choice, will have recommendations tailored to the various personas to help you figure out a cohesive style. 

At the end of most sections, there is a "Work Your ___ Budget" guide that tells you how to maximize the impact of whatever cash you have to devote to this aspect of your budget. If you have $20 to spend on makeup, she tells you where to put it; if your budget is more like $50 or $100 or more, she has advice for you, too.

Each section also concludes with a comparison of what makes people look like they "Don't Have a Dime" and the contrasting characteristics that make you "Look Like a Million Bucks" to sum up the look you're going for... and the one you're not.

Highly recommended for women who want to upgrade their look without devoting their whole lives or wallets to personal upkeep.

Stars: 5


I'm probably going to buy my own copy of this book just because I found it THAT helpful.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Shadowfever

Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

I borrowed the audiobook from the public library.

My review:


There's a lot going on in this final volume of the Fever series; almost a little too much. There are also rapid shifts and surprises and reveals at every turn, making Shadowfever a fast-paced ride. Mac spends most of the book preoccupied with the big worries and has less time for her more trivial musings.

One character shift in particular is significant and not entirely believable. The ultimate conclusion is not very clearly drawn. Still, this is a mostly-satisfying conclusion to a brilliant series.

Stars: 4

Runability: 5

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Art of the Handwritten Note

The Art of the Handwritten Note: A Guide to Reclaiming Civilized Communication by Margaret Shepherd

I purchased a used copy from Better World Books.

My review:


The Art of the Handwritten Note is sort of a love-letter to the practice of sending brief messages in your own handwriting. It encourages picking up a pen instead of shooting out an email whenever possible, and it gives tips for those unsure where or how to start.

The author is a professional calligrapher and apparently an opinionated one. She is pretty adamant about which kinds of paper and pens one should purchase, and she lays out a lot of rules about practically every note-writing situation. In some cases these are helpful, in some cases they are just common-sense, and in still others giving her personal preferences the weight of law is simply silly.

Helpful for those who struggle to say the "right thing" in a sympathy card or those who never received training in writing a proper thank-you note. There are a couple of good examples here and there for various occasions. Otherwise there is little of substance that is not adequately covered by Emily Post.

Stars: 2.5

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Going Clear

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

I borrowed the ebook from the Free Library of Philadelphia.

My review:


I first heard of this book on Julie's Book Hooked Blog last month and placed a hold on it immediately.
I'm fascinated by religions and theology, and who isn't a little intrigued by the mysterious organization that claims communion with aliens and which boasts John Travolta and Tom Cruise as members?

Wright did his research thoroughly; footnotes are scrupulously appended to especially controversial claims. And there are a lot of controversial claims that the Church of Scientology doesn't like one little bit, including stories of horrific abuse of Sea Org members at the hand of church leadership.

Despite the research and cross-referencing, this account of L. Ron Hubbard's life and of the development of the church following his death is perfectly readable. Those who adhere to no religion will be chilled at how so many non-believers were drawn into the church by the "scientific" self-help programs that seem to work so well. Thoughtful readers who are devout in an established religion will find themselves asking uncomfortable questions about their own belief systems.

This would be a good book to recommend to readers who enjoy entertaining nonfiction.

Stars: 5


My eyebrows were halfway up my forehead for most of the time I was reading this book. The claims of abuse in the church are horrifying. Almost more chilling is the claim that so many people in the punishment sectors stay willingly, either because they truly believe or because they fear the repercussions of leaving. Most frightening of all is that so many others who did attempt to escape the church have been hunted down across the country when they fled and that those who have opposed the church have been calculatedly stalked and driven to ruin.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dreamfever

Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

I borrowed the audiobook from the public library.

My review:


After the more cerebral pursuits of Faefever, Mac is back in real action. Dreamfever is the most action-packed volume in the entire Fever series, which is lots of fun. There's plenty going on beneath the surface level, as well, and some crucial relationships are definitely changing in very enjoyable ways.

A few sections are narrated by Dani instead of Mac, and that is the only real weakness of this book. Dani's voice, particularly in the audiobook, grates on me. Fortunately, the Dani passages are only temporary and Mac does resume telling her own tale.

An important note about the audio production of the book is that Dreamfever and the next and last book of the series, Shadowfever, are read by Natalie Ross and Phil Gigante. Phil Gigante does a great job with almost all of the male characters, but I prefer Joyce Bean (from the first three books) as Mac and the other females. Natalie Ross is good, but Joyce Bean is better.

Still, Dreamfever may be my favorite of the series, which is saying a lot.

Stars: 5

Runability: 5


Monday, July 29, 2013

Fool's Game

Fool's Game by Heather Huffman

I purchased the ebook from Barnes & Noble.

My review:


Cat is a Jason-Bourne type assassin-- with multiple identities and literally killer spy skills, she was an early recruit into a top-secret organization that the government has decided to exterminate. Unlike Bourne, she doesn't work alone and she knows exactly who she is and who she was, including some painful experiences that she'd almost rather forget.

Though her most recent publication, Fool's Game was actually the first book written by Heather Huffman, and it shows. Scene-setting and character introductions are never Huffman's strongest suit, but this book clunks along for the first few chapters. The action scenes, on the other hand, are perhaps even better than they have been in her previous books, though they do stretch the reader's credulity in a few points.

I wanted to love this book, but there was too much going on and too many characters who were too weakly developed. It was a nice enough read and doesn't demand too much attention, so this would be the perfect book for when you're sick on the couch and just want some comfort and distraction.

Stars: 2.5


For more information about why I am a devoted Heather Huffman reader, check out my comments on my review of Roses in Ecuador. If you are thinking about picking up one of her books, I think Throwaway is by far her best to date. Ring of Fire and Suddenly a Spy are also fun reads.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Faefever

Faefever by Karen Marie Moning

I purchased the audiobook on CD from Better World Books.

My review:


This third installment of the Fever series is a change from Darkfever and Bloodfever. There are more headgames and less action. Mac spends a lot of time trying to sort out loyalties, discern others' motivations, and figure out her next moves. Her "association" with Barrons is shifting discernibly, as well.

After the petunia-kicking of the first two books, Faefever is a slight letdown but is still well-worth the read or listen. Readers who have been with Mac this long will enjoy puzzling out the players on the game board alongside her.

Joyce Bean again does a lovely job with the reading.

Stars: 4

Runability: 5

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Animal Farm

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I downloaded the audiobook from the public library's OverDrive service.

My review:


Animal Farm is short, pointed, and definitely a product of its time. An allegory of a dystopian communist society, it illustrates the tactics used by dictators and repressive regimes to oppress, deceive, and exploit the civilians.

There is no subtlety in Animal Farm. There is not much optimism, either. Things go from bad to worse and the animals who garner the most sympathy and admiration suffer the most cruelly. But the book makes an important statement about the dangers of giving too much power and too little oversight to governing bodies claiming to serve.

Stars: 4


I listened to this book in one day-- granted, one day in which I spent several hours in the car. I am glad that I have "read" it. The agrarian setting makes it somehow a little less bleak than I found Fahrenheit 451 or 1984. It also makes the same points more succinctly and memorably.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bloodfever

Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning

I borrowed the audiobook on CD from my local public library.

My review:


Bloodfever is the second in the Fever series; my review of the first book can be found here. As Bloodfever is a continuation of the same story, the review and critique of it is much the same. Mac digs deeper for secrets and encounters more "players on the board."

In Bloodfever Mac has learned enough to start being more proactive, but her voice stays the same and her character's development is gradual and constant; as she becomes less "glam-girl Mac" and more "savage Mac," the transition is smooth and does not jar or go in fits and bursts. Fans of the first book will be excited to dive into the more robust action in the second.

Stars: 5

Runability: 5

Again, this was a re-listen for me. I'm enjoying the books every bit as much the second time around.




Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

I downloaded the ebook from the public library's OverDrive service.

My review:


It's an alternate edition of 1985, when the Crimean War still drags on and Special Operations forces try to maintain some semblance of order to the dimensions (the Chrono Guard stays busy keeping time in line) and various other aspects of the world.

Fforde's universe is reminiscent of something created by Douglas Adams or Neil Gaiman, though not to the same level of humorous absurdity. The heroine, Thursday Next, finds her surroundings more or less predictable. While this world may not make much sense to the reader, it does to the people inhabiting it. This is an important differentiation between The Eyre Affair and books like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in which the protagonist is at least as baffled as the reader.

Recommended for readers who have a love for classic British literature and history as well as the works of Adams, Gaiman, and Pratchett.

Stars: 3

Objective stars: 4


I had a difficult time getting into this book. Life has sent us some exceptional challenges lately and I am finding myself drawn toward easy, contemporary books with neat, happy endings. This is a book that I would have adored in high school and college, and I think that I may return to the series later and give it another shot. For right now, my brain just didn't want to puzzle out the intricacies of Thursday's 1985.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Savannah Blues

Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews

I borrowed the audiobook on CD from my local public library since Brilliance Audio titles are no longer available for download through the OverDrive service.

My review:


"Landing a catch like Talmadge Evans III got Eloise "Weezie" Foley a jewel of a town house in Savannah's historic district. Divorcing Tal got her exiled to the backyard carriage house, where she has launched a spite-fest with Tal's new fiancée, the elegant Caroline DeSantos." --Product description from LibraryThing

Weezie is trying to get her antiques business up and running and to hold her head high and her ground firm. That's no easy feat and she needs every bit of her brains and her sense of humor. Her narration is full of dry wit, pithy observations, and tell-it-like-it-is honesty... at least in her own head, in conversations with her best friend Bebe, and for the reader's benefit.

Passages that follow her priest-turned-lawyer Uncle James aren't as sassy but do suit his character well, and they add depth to the portrayal of the upper-middle-class Savannah social set. James becomes almost as fun to follow as Weezie is, herself.

Stars: 5

Runability: 5


I can't even begin to capture this book in a review. It's just wonderful. Susan Ericksen is quickly becoming one of my favorite audiobook readers and she hits this one out of the park. I laughed, and I gasped, and I couldn't figure out whodunnit (I never can). It's sexy and funny and sigh-worthy and I just wanted to crawl into this book and live there. A new favorite, for sure!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Once Upon a Prince

Once Upon a Prince by Rachel Hauck

I received a review copy from the publisher (Zondervan) via NetGalley.

My review:


I like the library description I found on LibraryThing: "When a jilted girlfriend meets a reluctant crown prince, they discover the power of God's love to heal hearts and change a nation."

The basic storyline has already been explored in works like A Royal Pain and the movie The Prince and Me, but Hauck breathes fresh life into the familiar plot. She manages to do so while conveying a strong Christian message without being heavy-handed or unrealistic.

Susanna's situation is one that is familiar to most young women, and readers will relate to her and understand her problems and fears. While Nate's external circumstances are less typical, his internal struggles keep him from being a stiff "Prince Charming" stock character. Little sister Avery is particularly charming as supporting cast, and the Georgia coast setting is a homey and romantic backdrop for the blossoming of a friendship into more.

The first few pages of prose were a little heavy, but Hauck hit her stride quickly and treats us to an enchanting little fantasy with more than a toehold in the real world. Highly recommended for readers of contemporary Christian romance who got up early to watch the Will & Kate wedding.

Stars: 5


This is the first book by Rachel Hauck that I've actually read, but I have a few of her other works on my to-read list and now I'm excited to get to them. This little novel was a delightful summer treat.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson

I downloaded the audiobook from the public library's OverDrive service (Publisher: Books on Tape).

My review:


Bill Bryson is back with his unique perspective on American life. This book, as indicated by the title, is a memoir of his growing-up years in Des Moines in the 1950s. It is more of a memoir of "childhood" or "kid world" than a strict autobiographical account, and Bryson brings his dry, affectionate, understated wit to bear on to one of the most cherished periods of American history.

This hilarious tour of "kid world" will resonate with anyone who was ever a child, whether or not they experienced that particular phase of life during the 1950s.

Stars: 5

Runability: 1


I tried running to this one, I really did, but I just can't run and laugh out loud at the same time.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Actors turning to audiobook narration

A librarian news blog I follow linked to this article in the NYT today. Up-and-coming (and established) actors are jumping into the expanding opportunities of audiobook narration.

Actors Today Don't Just Read for the Part. Reading IS the Part

While I still can't quite forgive Audible/Amazon, I am glad that so many people are able to find steady work that uses and honors their skills. And, of course, as a reader/listener, I'm delighted that we benefit by having access to such high-quality audio productions that combine the best of acting and reading.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls


The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

I borrowed the hardback from my local public library.

My review:


Fifteen-year-old Theadora is humiliated, outraged, and angry when her family packs her off to a girls' camp/school in North Carolina in the summer of 1930. After a sheltered life in rural Florida, Thea is plunged into culture shock when she must live in a cabin and take all of her classes, riding lessons, and meals with other privileged girls.

While Thea is 15/16 in the book, Yonahlossee is not a young-adult book. It falls into the category somewhat pretentiously known as "coming-of-age novels," but it captures the transition from childhood to the world of adulthood much more succinctly and compellingly than many works that are thus described.

The writing is excellent, the setting drawn in gorgeous detail, and the narrative device of flipping back and forth in time before and after "the incident" builds the tension perfectly. While the Act that got Thea sent away from home will not take much deducing, it is clear that there is more to the story. The need to know the whole truth intensifies as the book progresses. The progressive revelations about the past are neatly paired with developments in Thea's present at camp, illuminating her reasons for acting as she did in each situation and highlighting her development into a woman.

Recommended for adult female readers looking for a little depth along with the scandal in their summer reading. 

Stars: 5


It was easy for me to relate to Thea; I, too, grew up in a very isolated home and spent no meaningful time with boys outside my family. I spent hours and hours at the barn and on horseback when I was a young teen. I also went to Girl Scout camp faithfully (often horse camp) and worked at one for an entire summer. The transition to communal living and learning with other students was a shock when I went to college. So the external circumstances were ones that I understood better than the average reader may.

While Thea's drives will garner a lot of head nods from women remembering their own teen years, the way she handles them will raise a lot of eyebrows. Her choices are often scandalous, but what I found most unsettling was how she ultimately makes peace with the consequences. It's a book that doesn't quite let you go when you put it down.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Darkfever


Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning


My review:


MacKayla Lane is 22, pretty, and planning on spending most of her summer poolside in her small-town Georgia home. She likes nail polish, happy pop music, and Coronas on the beach while scoping out the guys. Then her sister is horrifically murdered while studying abroad in Dublin and Mac gets sucked into a dark supernatural world that she had no idea existed.

Darkfever is positively brilliant. Dark and light, control and chaos, play off of each other as Mac digs deeper into the confusion and secrets around her. The fantasy world is devilishly complex and so are most of the characters. But the true delight of Darkfever is Mac herself. By turns sweet and sunny or dark and determined, she narrates her story with pitch-perfect wordplay and piercing gallows humor.

Joyce Bean captures MacKayla's voice perfectly. She does an admirable job with the variety of supporting characters, many of whom have challenging accents. Bean's portrayal of Mac's sweet southern narration drips with wit and determination and makes this audio production a treat for listeners.

Stars: 5

Runability: 5


Darkfever was actually a re-listen for me. I found it a couple of years ago and fell head over heels for it and the rest of KMM's Fever series. Darkfever begins in early July, and the first time I listened to it was also in summer, so something about this time of year and my mood made it impossible not to revisit one of my favorites.

I've placed a hold on the CD version of the next in the series, and I think I may work my way back through all of the Fever books on audio over the next few months. Mac's world is so detailed and she learns so much about it throughout the course of her story that I know it will reward another "reading."

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

I was given a used paperback copy by a coworker.


My review:


An "epic novel of the Great Depression," The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family and the thousands of families like them. After losing their Oklahoma farm in the Dust Bowl, the Joads strike out West, following the promise of work harvesting in the lush fields and orchards of California.

Steinbeck's writing is brilliant-- absolutely brilliant. His command of language is amazing and his descriptions will put the reader in the truck, in the dusty field, in the leaky tent, like almost no other author's work can manage to do. The characters are believable and lifelike, and his understanding of human psychology and how families live and work together is deep.

Steinbeck's message is clear: Capitalism has failed these thousands of hard-working, honest people, and the "reds" who are brutalized by the police are clearly his heroes.


Stars: 2

Objective stars: 4.5


My low rating is because I really didn't enjoy reading Grapes very much, due to the depressing nature of the story. I deliberately waited to read this novel until the middle of summer, when the long days, hot weather, and more relaxed schedule make me resilient to discouragement. It is not a book I could have endured in February.

Of course, many of these events actually happened. People did starve to death. Children were malnourished. Families lost the land that they had cultivated for generations. Ignoring these facts of history is not the answer... But it doesn't make for "enjoyable" reading for me, either.

Also, while Steinbeck makes a case for his position, he fails to acknowledge that these thousands of honest, hard-working, self-policing people were they way they were because they had been raised in environments where hard work would be rewarded and laziness would not. The world of this book is a sickening breakdown of that system, but his salt-of-the-earth people had always had a strong incentive to work and they carried that attitude into their current circumstances. His communist utopia would only be possible if it were peopled by citizens who had been raised outside of it.

I recommend also reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged as a counterbalance.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Highlander's Touch

The Highlander's Touch (Highlander Saga #3) by Karen Marie Moning


My review:


I have little to say that I didn't say in Wednesday's post. This is the third book in the series, and it is definitely my favorite thus far. Most readers feel that this series improves as it goes, and you can definitely tell that KMM was developing as an author as she wrote these books.

In this book, Moning returns to the idea of a modern woman being transported to middle-ages Scotland. Until the last couple of chapters, I felt that the concepts of the time and culture clashes were addressed very well. The ending wasn't what I expected but was satisfying in its own way.

Stars: 4

Runability: 5


This one was great to run to! The first two books in the series were fine, but this one was really good. While it is a "series," you could definitely jump right in with Touch instead of reading/listening to the first two without missing anything important.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Running update

I finally have something to talk about when it comes to running!

Next Friday I will be doing a 5-mile evening race in the neighboring town. I've been training for it using the 10k training program from PersonalRunningTrainer.com, which is kicking my butt, as usual. The good part is that after the tempo and intervals runs every week, a steady run seems like hardly any effort at all, so I know that I'll be prepared to run a strong race.

In more exciting news, I've also registered for the Cleveland half-marathon next May! An internet friend of mine has become a runner over the last couple of years and I've loved following her progress. She's ready to tackle her first half and I offered to do it with her.

Though I won't begin actually training until February, I'm already very excited to have another half in my sights. I'm also glad that it's nearly a year away so I have the summer and fall to focus on life and work responsibilities.

I have a feeling that I'll be working my way through a LOT of audiobooks next spring!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Audiobook Week: Friday


Today's prompt:

"Where do you learn about great audiobook titles? Buy your audiobooks? Share your secrets with the rest of us! We’d particularly love to know what narrators or publishers are active in social media or do a great job communicating with listeners."


I wish I had a good answer, at least to the first question. I've learned about many good ones through my online book discussion message board; it used to be at TheNest.com and then many of us migrated away to a site on ProBoards. That's where I learned about Nora Roberts' Bridal Quartet, Karen Moning's Fever series, and a few more. I started picking up on patterns and a few production companies and narrators I liked, and I would search for more works by them.

As to where I buy my audiobooks, I try not to. They are expensive. I used to download almost all of my audiobooks through OverDrive from either my local library system or the Free Library of Philadelphia (as a PA resident whose local library is in the PA Access program, I can get a free card to any other participating public library in the state). Sadly, now that Brilliance Audio has pulled its titles, I will probably have to find an alternative way to get my fix.

I'll still borrow what I can through OverDrive, check my local library for titles they may have on CD, and hit up LibriVox for free recordings of classics. I purchase some titles used on CD from Better World Books. I'm considering a couple of CD rental services (Simply Audiobooks and Audiotogo, similar to the Netflix disc program, for the near future.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Scent of Rain

The Scent of Rain by Kristin Billerbeck

I bought the ebook when it was discounted through Barnes & Noble.

My review:


Daphne is left at the altar on her wedding day and has to figure out where to go from there. Her new job as the "nose," or professional scent expert, for a cleaning products company gets exponentially more difficult when her sense of smell vanishes in her emotional turmoil.

Kristin Billerbeck writes Christian chick-lit deftly. Daphne and the supporting characters are realistic people in relate-able situations. The Christians in Billerbeck's books are real Christians; they struggle and doubt and make mistakes and say things they shouldn't and receive encouragement from others. They try to hold to principles but thankfully don't veer into being rigid or obnoxious.

Scent of Rain is less "chick-lit-y" than the other Billerbeck novels I've read, and by that I mean that there is less focus on clothes and other "frivolous" lifestyle details. There is a love story, but the focus is on a young woman learning more about herself, which I believe is actually the best characteristic of good chick-lit.

The ending was compressed a little, in a manner reminiscent of Billerbeck's She's Out of Control, but the novel is still satisfyingly substantial and should be enjoyable for fans of the genre.

Stars: 4



Audiobook Week: Thursday


So, you know, what the heck, I'll just jump on in halfway through the week. Why not?

Today's question:

"What do you do while you listen? Any particular tasks or games that you find amazing for audio time?"


Well, obviously, I run while I listen to audiobooks! I also listen on my commute; I drive just over half an hour each way to work. Those are the two main activities that I combine with my listening.

I also listen to audiobooks while cleaning the house, working in the yard, and folding laundry. This summer I am also able to listen sometimes at work; we are doing collection maintenance that requires a lot of mindless physical tasks.

Occasionally I will listen while I knit. 

I have never tried playing games and probably won't. Audiobooks are how I sweeten tasks that need to get done. If I have leisure time, I'll be using it to actually read.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Audiobook Week Mid-Week Meme

I saw this floating around the blogosphere and decided to pretend to be a real blog and participate. :)

 

Current/most recent audiobook:

The Highlander's Touch by Karen Marie Moning, narrated by Phil Gigante


Impressions:

As I work my way into this series (Touch is #3 in the Highlander Saga), I agree with the general consensus that they get better. You can really sense KMM developing her voice and confidence as a writer. Phil Gigante is a really great narrator for her books, though his Scottish accent isn't quite perfect and I will forever prefer him as Barrons.

Current/most recent favorite audiobook:

My favorite recent audiobook is Naked in Death by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts) and read by Susan Ericksen.


I also really, really loved Karen Savage's reading of The Scarlet Pimpernel for LibriVox. And it's freely available for the downloading!

Favorite narrator you’ve discovered recently:

I really enjoyed David Stuart's readings of Sea Swept and Rising Tides. Unfortunately it doesn't look like he is a very prolific audiobook narrator. These aren't recent discoveries, but I do love Scott Brick and Edward Hermann as readers.

One title from your TBL (to be listened) stack, or your audio wishlist:

I should be beginning The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson shortly. He's always a hoot.

 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Amazon and audiobooks

I'm not sure where I was in January when OverDrive announced that Brilliance Audio was going to "suspend the availability of all download audiobook titles for library purchase across all vendors." I didn't notice anything until I returned from my vacation and sat down to place a hold on the next books in a couple of series that I enjoy as audio downloads.

All of the audio versions of books in several of my favorite series (the Fever and Highlander series by Karen Marie Moning, the In Death books by J.D. Robb, ANYTHING by Nora Roberts) had completely disappeared from the OverDrive systems of both my local public library and the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Why did this happen? As the article I link to above explains, Amazon owns Brilliance Audio (I did not know this). Amazon also owns Audible (I did know that).

Quite simply, Amazon doesn't want you to be able to download its content from the library because they want you to PAY to download it from them. It makes good business sense for Amazon, but it hurts the reader/listener and it hurts libraries.

This is another example of just why I dislike Amazon so much. Yes, things are better for the consumer, the indie author, etc. in the short term if they buy into Amazon's format ecosystems. But Amazon is constructing its deals in such a way that you can go through them OR you can go through everyone else, but you can't do both. What happens when they have managed to squash the competition?

What happens if our only avenue to acquire books is through Amazon?

I don't want to live in that world.

Support your local bookstores. Support indie authors who choose to e-publish through non-Kindle platforms. Buy a Nook or a Kobo or a Sony Reader or an Acer tablet, for the love of all that is good, not a Kindle. The more we buy into Amazon for some short-term convenience, the more we surrender our long-term choices.

*     *     *     *

So, practically speaking... What am I going to do about this whole mess? 

I'm not completely sure yet. There are, of course, lots of non-Brilliance Audio audiobooks that are still available through OverDrive. I will also probably spend more time over at LibriVox, boning up on my classics. 

I don't think that I am quite prepared to give up some of the series that I am listening to and loving as audio productions. If my local library has a Brilliance Audio CD copy of a book I want, I will borrow that, though they aren't often available. I am considering subscribing to Simply Audiobooks or Audio To Go, both of which offer CD-renting services, much like the Netflix disc plan. These options would still send money to Amazon, of course, but far less than purchasing the download through Audible would. They would also keep the costs down to where I might be able to afford my audiobook habit, which without library loans could easily become an expensive one.

Rising Tides

Rising Tides by Nora Roberts

I downloaded the audiobook from the public library's OverDrive service.

My review:



Rising Tides is the second installment of Nora Roberts' Quinn Brothers of Chesapeake Bay series (see my review of Sea Swept, the first book, here). This book focuses on Ethan, the waterman brother who never left home and who keeps his past and his feelings closely wrapped underneath an implacable surface.

Ethan was my favorite brother in Sea Swept and Rising Tides was more enjoyable for me because of that. The setting played an even larger role this time, and Grace was a more believable love interest than Anna. The story was also more realistic, since the characters had years of friendship to build upon and the reader isn't expected to buy an instant-forever-love connection.

Seth develops more throughout this book and is becoming a full character in his own right. Cam and Anna played good supporting roles (particularly Cam; Anna still bothers me). Philip hardly appeared at all, which I found odd since the next book will focus on him.

Stars: 4

Runability: 5


I got to listen to parts of this book while running along the boardwalk in Virginia Beach and smelling the ocean-- perfect! David Stuart has done a wonderful job with the narration of these two stories. Sadly, he does not do the reading for Inner Harbor and the previous edition of that is being superseded by one that is going to be released on July 2, 2013. I will be listening to the new reading of that one. I'm not sure why a different narrator was chosen in the first place, or why that reading is being replaced now, but I hope to have a good experience with Inner Harbor despite my extreme apathy to Philip.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Busting Vega$

Busting Vegas: The MIT Whiz Kid Who Brought the Casinos to Their Knees by Ben Mezrich

I bought the ebook when it was discounted at Barnes & Noble.

My review:


Card-counting MIT students hit the national radar when the movie 21 was released several years ago, and this story is something of a sequel to that one. While the math geniuses in Busting Vegas don't count cards, they have discovered a handful of techniques to manipulate when the blackjack dealer will "bust," or lose the hand and pay out to the players.

This story is an odd mash-up of math, relationships between the team members, and descriptions of the seedier sides of Vegas and the casinos in other cities around the world. There are multiple "story lines" going at once, none of which is particularly strong and all of which resurface and intertwine jerkily. The individual events are compelling, but the reader will probably feel detached from the action and the characters.

Good for a light read for those who have a passing interest in gambling or in the darker sides of power and wealth. 

Stars: 3


I found Semyon Dukach's afterword bizarre. He tries to persuade the readers that he and his team weren't so much in it for the money as they were striking a blow at evil, greedy casinos on behalf of the "little guys". He compares their actions to those of Robin Hood (as Mezrich also does at various points in the book itself). What he fails to acknowledge is that Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor. The MIT team was not giving their gains away to anyone; they bought planes and bespoke suits and lived the lives of high-rollers. And to paint the casinos as thieves is, I think, putting it on pretty thick. While the casinos undoubtedly make a killing, every gambler walking in the door has heard that "the house always wins".

While the team's actions may not have been illegal or even quite unethical, to say that they were noble or unselfish is a transparent and pathetic attempt at self-justification.

Being Kendra

Being Kendra: Cribs, Cocktails, & Getting My Sexy Back by Kendra Wilkinson

I purchased the ebook when it was discounted through Barnes & Noble.

My review:


You don't pick up a book by Kendra Wilkinson expecting anything great in the sense of quality content OR literary merit. But if you go in with expectations of nothing more than a trashy tell-all, you may be surprised to find that it's not as bad as you thought.

I grabbed a copy of her first memoir, Sliding Into Home, a couple of years ago when a copy was donated at my workplace for the book sale. I wouldn't have paid money for it, but I couldn't resist finding out just how bad it was. While it was bad, and horrifying in parts, I did get some chuckles and found myself oddly respecting Kendra for some of her choices (SOME!!!).

Jared Shapiro must know his business, because the book is readable but the tone is all busy young woman; it doesn't read as ghost-written. I enjoyed getting a behind-the-scenes look at the writing and filming of "reality" shows and what it's like to prep for and attend a red-carpet event in Hollywood.

She talks a lot about her legions of "fans" and never hesitates to give advice on parenting, marriage, finances, nutrition, exercise, cell phone usage, or anything else. I did roll my eyes a lot. But for an easy, trashy, guilty-pleasure beach read, it was fun enough and worth my two bucks.

Stars: 2

The Art Forger

The Art Forger by Barbara A. Shapiro

I downloaded the ebook from my local public library's 3M collection.

My review:


An artist who has been blacklisted in the Boston art scene makes a living creating reproductions of famous paintings and is approached by a gallery owner who has a tempting proposal. The problem is that what he is suggesting is not exactly on the up-and-up, but it does pay well and it's not illegal... exactly... Claire doesn't think.

While some of the art-talk verges on tedious for those not into the fine art scene, Shapiro manages to pull the novel back from the edge every time it ventures on boredom. The ethical dilemmas, Claire's love life, and the emerging mystery are enough to hold a reader's interest. The writing is also detailed and deft; the book almost crosses into literary fiction, though not quite.

Stars: 4


My book club previously read An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin (yes, the actor) and I was worried that this was going to be a repeat of that: passages of long-winded discussions of art and forgery techniques that made my eyes glaze over just like a finished oil painting. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying this one very much and think others with only a passing knowledge of art will be able to enjoy it, too.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Secret Life of a Vampire

Secret Life of a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks (Love at Stake series #6)

I downloaded the ebook from the public library's OverDrive service.

My review:


I'm gradually working my way through this series. I got the first book (How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire) as a Nook freebie several years ago and was hooked by the way these books totally OWN their cheesiness. They're romances featuring modern-day vampires (who are all impossibly gorgeous, of course). They're rich. They're kind. They're impossibly strong. They teleport. They're touchingly tortured with guilt. Most of them are sweetly awkward with women. Yes, some of them are Scottish warriors who wear kilts. I mean, let's just tackle all of the fantasies at once, shall we? These books are ridiculous, they know it, and they revel in it. And so do I.

This installment follows the literal son of Casanova as he meets a modern-day NYC cop who is hoping that she can get promoted to detective. It's formulaic if you've read the previous books in the series, but enjoyable, nonetheless. I just love how the author writes flirtation; the verbal sparring between the love interests is always the highlight of these books for me.

Stars: 2.5


I'll round up to 3. It was fun, but I didn't laugh out loud as many times as I have with the previous five books. I've heard that the series gets increasingly formulaic, but I'm going to give it another couple of tries before I can decide whether to abandon this guilty pleasure for good.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Backlog

We were on vacation last week. While this





was pretty good for my reading progress, it wasn't so great for my reviewing.

I'll be working my way through:

Secret Life of a Vampire
The Art Forger
Being Kendra
and hopefully soon Busting Vega$

as soon as I can. As you can see, I keep it classy and highbrow when I'm at the beach.

Stay tuned.